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Seismic reflection data show that the densely populated Puget Lowland of western Washington state is underlain by subhorizontal Paleogene and Neogene sedimentary rocks deformed by west and northwest trending faults and folds. From south to north beneath the Lowland, features seen on the seismic data include: the horizontally-stratified, 3.5 km thick Tacoma sedimentary basin; the Seattle uplift with south dipping (???20??) strata on its south flank and steeply (50?? to 90??) north dipping strata and the west-trending Seattle fault on its north flank; the 7.5 km thick, northward-thinning Seattle sedimentary basin; the antiformal Kingston arch; and the northwest trending, transpressional Southern Whidbey Island fault zone (SWIF). Interpreting the uplifts as fault-bend and fault-propagation folds leads to the hypothesis that the Puget Lowland lies on a north directed thrust sheet. The base of the thrust sheet may lie at 14 to 20 km depth within or at the base of a thick block of basaltic Crescent Formation; its edges may be right-lateral strike-slip faults along the base of the Cascade Range on the east and the Olympic Mountains on the west. Our model suggests that the Seattle fault has a long-term slip rate of about 0.25 mm/year and is large enough to generate a M7.6 to 7.7 earthquake.
Additional Publication Details
Seismic reflection images beneath Puget Sound, western Washington State: The Puget Lowland thrust sheet hypothesis